BRADENTON, Fla. -- There are a number of factors that will be considered as the Pirates piece together their Opening Day roster, and roster flexibility is among them.
Five players on the club's 40-man roster -- Jose Ascanio, Kevin Hart, Charlie Morton, Chris Resop and John Bowker -- are out of options this season. This means that none of them can be optioned to the Minors without first clearing waivers. Of course, when a player is placed on waivers, he becomes available to any of the other 29 clubs.
Unquestionably, the Pirates are going to have to run such a risk with some of these out-of-option players, as there is not enough room to keep all five. But in a situation where two players are equally deserving of a roster spot, expect the out-of-options one to get the nod.
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"It's a situation where it plays a factor," general manager Neal Huntington said. "It's not the
decision factor. You start to take a look at which decisions are reversible and irreversible, and sometimes the irreversible decision is the one that forces your hand a little bit."
Both Resop and Morton appear on track to start the season with Pittsburgh. Resop proved last season that he can be a valuable bullpen piece, while Morton has emerged as the favorite to win the fifth spot in the Pirates' rotation, with his strong spring showing and Scott Olsen's hamstring setback. And should the Pirates not use Morton as a starter, the right-hander could also slot into the 'pen.
The outlook is not so clear with Ascanio, Hart and Bowker. Ascanio and Hart have both been slowed by injuries and are still days away from being ready to pitch in games. The Pirates could buy some time by placing either right-hander on the disabled list to begin the season.
Bowker is among a number of players fighting for a bench spot. The makeup of the bench will come into better focus once the club determines how it plans to use Ryan Doumit. Still, Bowker is seen as a long-shot to be kept on as an extra outfielder.